What’s the best thing to come out of role-playing games that isn’t a RPG? Modern videogames.
Sure, without tabletop RPGs, you would still have puzzle games, platformers, and first-person shooters, but games with roleplaying elements: characters that level up, gaining new abilities, going on adventures and having ongoing stories — those wouldn’t exist. Imagine no Fallout series. No Mass Effect. No Final Fantasy. No Pokemon.
Today, when someone talks of playing a RPG, they’re most likely talking about something on a computer or videogame console.
Imagine if Gygax and Arneson didn’t decide to create a wargame where you controlled one dude instead of a squad or platoon of dudes. The fantasy genre was a small sub-section in the bookstore in the 1970s, sword and sandal movies, and one awesome rock ballad on the radio. The fantasy resurgence was nearly over, but D&D helped carry the torch through the late 70s and 80s, inspiring a new generation of authors and game designers. In videogames, if the elements of tabletop role-playing games somehow developed, the fantasy aspect would be minimal, if done at all: Skyrim and World of Warcraft never existed. MMOs wouldn’t exist. The first several were fantasy-based, only after success of fantasy MMOs did the people who own science fiction and other genre IPs see the profitability in that field and begin to make non-fantasy massively multiplayer online games. So there’s EVE Online. Star Wars: The Old Republic. City of Heroes.
Heck, I like the Shadowrun turn-based games Harebrained has put out more than the original Shadowrun roleplaying game. (I’m also a bit disappointed that I’m almost at the end of Shadowrun: Hong Kong. I just unlocked the dialogue that says, “Before you go on this next mission, you might want to take care of any unfinished business — there’s no coming back from this.”) I love going back to Skyrim and following my own path I love Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. I’m looking forward to Fallout 4 and losing days of productivity, even as that game competes with XCOM 2.
And now, that awesome rock ballad: